Dutch and Flemish

[diacritics] | [vowels and diphthongs] | [consonants] | [stress] | [notable exceptions] | [more info] | [bottom]

Although it's quite closely related to German, Dutch gives the impression of being one of the odder languages in Europe due to its distinctively peculiar system of vowel sounds. Most people know little or nothing about the Dutch language except that it's similar to German, thus there's is a common tendency to use German pronunciation rules for Dutch names. This approach often produces results that are phonetically wrong but generally acceptable (e.g. Frans Brüggen, see below). However, it cannot always be applied: Dutch contains many odd looking vowel combinations that German lacks, and it also pronounces certain vowels very differently. When German rules can be applied, you should not assume they are correct.

Flemish, the variety of Dutch spoken in Belgium, is the same language for radio purposes. The only notable difference is in the pronunciation of the letter w; the Flemish way matches English, while the Dutch way matches German (see below).


Dutch uses the umlaut on the letter y, but it has a very different meaning and origin from the German umlaut: Dutch ÿ is originally a contraction of ij. Of course, the umlaut is not always printed, which tends to cause some uncertainty as to how one should pronounce y.

Vowels and Diphthongs

Like German, some Dutch vowels sound differently depending on whether they are in "open" or "closed" syllables. A closed syllable is one that ends with a consonant, i.e. the English word "fountain" consists of two closed syllables, while the word "futon" has an open syllable followed by a closed syllable. In Dutch the difference between open and closed affects the sounds of a and e, though radio announcers can get away with ignoring the difference.

Do keep in mind that the Dutch u is like the French u: in Germanic terms, that means we pronounce it as though there's an umlaut.

aah (open) or uh (closed), e.g. Radio Nederland = rah-dee-oh nay-der-lund
aa, aeah
eay (open) or eh (closed), e.g. Dit bed is beter = diht beht ihs bay-ter
e (final)uh, like German unstressed final e
ei, eyiy, like the word "eye"
enuh (the n is dropped, but it is common to ignore this rule)
euö, like French eu, or German ö
ijiy, like the word "eye"
o, oooh
oeoo, as in "root"
u, uu, ueü, like German ü or French u
ui, uy, uij, uÿow, but also somewhat like iy or oy; e.g. Wieland Kuijken = wee-lund kow-ken [audio sample]
uwü, e.g. Leeuw = lay
yee, or sometimes iy (equivalent to ÿ)
ÿiy, equivalent to ij (this symbol is literally a contraction of i and j)


These are much easier than the vowels, but still a little strange in some cases. As in German, voiced stops normally become voiceless at ends of syllables (d becomes t, b becomes p, and so forth).

c [+a,o,u]k
c [+i,e]s
gh, gutteral, e.g. de Groot = duh-hroht [audio sample]; however on the radio you can usually get away with using an ordinary hard g (see exceptions, below).
jy, except in the combinations sj and tj described below
ss, like English, not like German!
schskh, may be approximated as sk (not like German!)
sjsh, e.g. Sjostakovitsj is the Dutch spelling of Shostakovich
sp, stsp, st: like English, NOT like German!
tj, tsjch, as in "church"
vv, like English, NOT like German!
wv (in Dutch), or w (in Flemish)
zz, like English, NOT like German!
zjzh, like the s in "measure"


The rules for German stress apply also to Dutch, for the most part. Most words are stressed on the first syllable.

Notable Exceptions

These are not technically exceptions, they are actually names that have become so well known in their incorrect (usually Germanicized) pronunciations that you are better off pronouncing them incorrectly. Thus the following indications do not follow the rules stated above:

Frans Brüggenfrahns brü-gen [audio sample] (would be brü-huh)
Concertgebouwkuhn-sehrt-guh-bow [audio sample] (would be kuhn-sehrt-huh-bow)

More information

Radio Netherlands has created a website in the same spirit as this one, containing a list of Dutch names with RealAudio recordings of these names being pronounced by a Dutch radio announcer. These samples are educational to listen to, but there are two things to beware of:

Nevertheless, if you're going to approximate something, it's always nice to get a concrete idea of what you're approximating. The address is

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list of names with audio samples

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